Heartbreaker for SNHU women
The fifth-seeded Penmen (13-5-4) basically ruled 90 minutes of regulation play and two 10-minute sudden-death overtime sessions before being eliminated after a winner-take-all shootout scenario.
Fourth-seeded Dowling (14-3-2) outscored the host Penmen, 5-4, in penalty kicks to advance to Sunday's 6 p.m. second-round game against top-seeded LIU Post (15-2-2), back at SNHU's Larkin Field.
"Sometimes the better team doesn't win. It's as simple as that," said Penmen coach Terry Prouty after watching her club, ranked 25th in the nation, outshoot the Golden Lions, 10-1, possess the ball for the entire game, but ultimately lose.
"We had plenty of opportunities in front of the net but couldn't find a way to bury one. What a shame," said Prouty.
Penmen shooters Kaleigh Roberts of Manchester, Ashley Jaskula, Morgan Branco and Gabby Cappello netted penalty-kick chances before Dowling keeper Melissa Guglielmo made a diving save of Tara Murphy's shot aimed just inside the left post, giving teammate Alexandria Abruzzo the opportunity to strike the game-winning tally.
Manchester's Maggie Weldon assumed SNHU keeper duties for the shootout, replacing Samantha Whittier, who had shut out her fourth straight team during the postseason. The senior saved the first PK she saw, and was a split-second late leaping for Abruzzo's shot.
"We felt (Whittier) would do well against Dowling because she's good at saving high shots, but (Weldon) was more experienced saving PKs," said Prouty. "She's been practicing them during the entire postseason and was making a lot of saves in practice."
Both teams were riding four-game win streaks and making a third NCAA tourney appearance. The Golden Lions were fresh off winning their second straight East Coast Conference championship while the Penmen claimed their first-ever Northeast-10 championship last weekend.
"Oh, we had so many chances during this game," said Prouty.
Branco had the best scoring chance of the first half, clanking a point-blank shot off Gugliemo's's left thigh about one minute before intermission. About 20 minutes prior, Penmen teammate Roberge watched Guglielmo tip her 20-yard offering over the crossbar.
The SNHU defense didn't concede anything close to a shot in the first half. Defender Emily Mongeau headed away the closest bid on a corner-kick serve. The Penmen nearly surrendered their first goal of the postseason when Dowling's Allison Merrill crossed a shot off the left post in the second minute of the second half. Whittier was in position for a save, but confidently let it go by.
SNHU amped up the pressure as the second half ticked away. A diving save foiled Cappello's blast. Jaskula caromed a shot off the crossbar. Branco lofted one shot well high and had Gugliemo race up to swallow two 15-yard offerings off her right foot, one in the 69th minute and the other in the 75th. The Penmen mounted two scoring bids in the final minutes of regulation play.
"I personally feel their keeper kept them in the game," said Prouty. "She was very aggressive coming out of the net. They seemed content to let this game go to penalty kicks."